More than 40 senior academics have said they will resign from the Arts and Humanities Research Council's peer review college on June if the council does not take "clear steps" to remove references to the Big Society from its delivery plan.
Academic discontent over the inclusion of five references to David Cameron's core policy has rumbled on since a newspaper alleged earlier this year that the references were made at the insistence of the government.
The AHRC strongly denied the allegations, but nearly 4,000 academics signed a petition calling for the removal of all reference to the Big Society from the delivery plan.
More than 30 learned societies also added their voice to the call and two academics – Bob Brecher, professor of ethics at the University of Brighton, and Maria Manuel Lisboa, professor of Portuguese literature and culture at the University of Cambridge – resigned from the council's peer review college.
Now another 42 senior figures have pledged to follow suit if the AHRC does not signal its willingness to remove the references to the Big Society, which would require the consent of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
There are around 1,400 members of the peer review college in total, but the campaign's organiser, Thom Brooks, reader in political and legal philosophy at Newcastle University, said it had been impractical to approach so many people. He said he had deliberately targeted senior figures in the hope that their example might prompt others to follow.
He described mass resignation as a "highly reluctant move, but we believe a necessary one".
"This issue of including a political campaign slogan in the delivery plan has caused much unnecessary concern," he said.
A spokesman for the AHRC said earlier this week that the council was "not contemplating" any move to amend its delivery plan. He added that the council was holding its annual meeting with subject associations today, where he was "sure the issue would be brought up".
The academics who have threatened to resign on June are:
Grenville G. Astill, professor of archaeology, University of Reading
Elleke Boehmer, professor of world literature in English, University of Oxford
Stephen Bottoms, professor of drama and theatre studies, University of Leeds
Emma Borg, professor of philosophy, University of Reading
Thom Brooks, reader in political and legal philosophy, Newcastle University
Mark Chapman, vice-principal, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford
Sarah Colvin, professor in the study of contemporary Germany, University of Birmingham
Peter Day, reader in archaeological materials, University of Sheffield
Antony Duff, professor of philosophy, University of Stirling
Steven French, professor of philosophy of science, University of Leeds
David Gillespie, professor of Russian, University of Bath
Leslie Green, professor of the philosophy of law, University of Oxford
Valerie A. Hall, professor emerita of palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast
Paul L. Halstead, professor of archaeology, University of Sheffield
John Harrington, professor of law, University of Liverpool
Matti Häyry, professor of bioethics and philosophy of law, University of Manchester
Nicholas Hewlett, professor of French studies, University of Warwick
Maggie Humm, professor in humanities, University of East London
Mark Humphries, professor of ancient history, Swansea University
Dina Iordanaova, director of the Centre for Film Studies, University of St Andrews
Glynis Jones, professor of archaeology, University of Sheffield
Elizabeth Eva Leach, university lecturer in Music, University of Oxford
Karen Leeder, professor of modern German literature, University of Oxford
Alison MacLeod, professor of contemporary fiction, University of Chichester
Paul McDonald, professor of cinema, University of Portsmouth
Alexander Miller, professor of philosophy, University of Birmingham
Anthony Milton, professor of history, University of Sheffield
Catherine Moriarty, principal research fellow, University of Brighton
Rosalind O’Hanlon, professor of Indian history and culture, University of Oxford
David Owen, professor of social and political philosophy, University of Southampton
Paul Pettitt, reader in palaeolithic archaeology, University of Sheffield
Julian Preece, professor of German, Swansea University
Ritchie Robertson, Taylor Professor of German, University of Oxford
Irit Rogoff, professor of visual cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London
Karen Ross, professor of media and public communication, University of Liverpool
Sean Sayers, professor of philosophy, University of Kent, Canterbury
Ricarda Schmidt, professor of German, University of Exeter
David Skilton, research professor in English, Cardiff University
Patrick Stevenson, professor of German and linguistic studies, University of Southampton
David Walker, professor of French, University of Sheffield
Paul Williams, professor of Indian and Tibetan philosophy, University of Bristol
Ian Wood, professor of early medieval history, University of Leeds